The passing of the NHI bill by the National Assembly, although a landmark development, is for many stakeholders concerning in the context of the demise of so many other state-owned enterprises, writes Dr Reinder Nauta, National HealthCare Group executive chairman.
Progress must however be made in achieving better healthcare access and affordability for all citizens of the country, and any government should, and would no doubt take this same approach.
While acknowledging the excellence of the South African private healthcare system, which has consistently ranked among the world's best, there is a need for broader access and improved affordability in the current healthcare funding industry.
Our country’s current private healthcare funding industry is predominantly focussed on the higher income sectors of society and as such has reached its maturity with little or no future growth prospects. With only 8.9 million South Africans covered by medical schemes, there is still much work to be done to ensure comprehensive healthcare coverage for the millions of people who do not have access to reliable healthcare services.
While the private healthcare system is commendable in so many respects – particularly in so far as our world-class healthcare service providers and facilities are concerned – we must aim for greater inclusivity. It is our duty to ensure that quality healthcare reaches a far wider spectrum of South Africans than is currently the case, and with innovation, cooperation, and the intelligent and appropriate use of technology, we can lead Africa in addressing this urgent quest. It is effectively this very challenge that the passing of the NHI bill is focusing on thereby issuing a renewed wake-up call to our industry.
Just as no man is an island, we need to find new ways of conducting business to better serve our industry and millions of South Africans who have little choice apart from waiting for the introduction of National Health Insurance. Until such time, and by way of a starting point, we can achieve more together and practical solutions need to be shared.
"With over 5.5 million employed individuals currently without medical aid, there is ample opportunity for positive change," says Dr Nauta. "Together, we can give true meaning to 'improving healthcare access' once and for all.